Italian Perino Machine Gun

The Perino is a gun that really should have been adopted, but wasn’t. Its development began in 1901 when Giuseppe Perino (an Italian Army officer) patented the design for a recoil-operated machine gun with a novel twist. The Perino gun fed from 20-round feed strips (like a Hotchkiss), but instead of ejecting empty cases out of the gun, it replaced them in the feed strip as it was fed through the action (this concept would reappear a few decades later in the M37 Breda machine gun). When all 20 rounds were fired, the feed strip fell out the right side of the gun filled with all the empty cases. The idea behind this feature was to prevent spent casings from hitting troops and getting underfoot.

 

Italian Perino machine gun
Italian Perino machine gun

The Perino could mount a box on the left side of the receiver which held 5 loaded feed strips, pulling the bottom one in to use when firing. This made it simple for the assistant gunner to keep the weapon topped off by simply adding loaded strips to the top of the ammo box as the gun was firing. Between this and its water jacket to keep the barrel cool, the Perino theoretically could fire more continuously than any other gun available in its day (even a long ammo belt must be changed sooner or later in a Maxim).

 

Perino machine gun internal parts
Perino machine gun internal parts

Unfortunately for Perino, his gun was deemed Top Secret by the Italian government, to prevent its perceived advantages from being copied. The government slowly tested and developed the gun, including a successful trial against the Maxim in 1908. However, because of its secrecy it never participated in large-scale open trials and was thus never really perfected. When WWI broke out in 1914, the Perino lost out to the Fiat-Revelli machine gun, because Fiat was willing and able to put their gun into mass production immediately. A pity for the Italian soldiers who would have to use it, because I think the Perino would have been a significantly better weapon.

We have an original manual for the Perino in both English and French, which is an interesting read – the designers certainly thought highly of it!

Perino Machine Gun manual (English and French)
Perino Machine Gun manual (English and French)

10 Comments

  1. I wasn’t able to find much info on it beyond the manual itself – the secrecy contention came from an article on the Fiat-Revelli by Robert Segel. If you (or anyone else) have a more accurate history of the gun, I will certainly revise what I have.

    • Book on Swiss machine guns (“Bewaffnung und Ausrustung der Schweizer Armee seit 1817. Automatwaffen II” by Reinhart & Rhyn) has a photo of the Perino MG that was tested in Switzerland prior to WW1, about 1910, IIRC

  2. I also have to question whether it was “top secret”. The brochure (I wouldn’t call it a manual) has “J&P Hill, Ordnance Works, Sheffield” rather prominently on the front of it. J&P Hill would have been a foreign sales agent for Perino.

    The introduction also states “this gun will soon be adopted by other Governments, who have taken it into consideration, and made it the object of special study”. It further states “the Committee appointed by the Parliament to investigate matters at the War Office…”. Given the context of that statement, I would assume they mean the British War Office (as opposed to the Italian equivalent).

    In other words, they seem to have been actively marketing it to everyone. There is no date on the brochure, but while it’s possible that this was a post-war sales effort, I doubt it. They state “it has been adopted by the Italian Government, and a set of 200 is not being made in the R. Arsenals”. The “set of 200” sounds like the pre-war evaluation batch referred to in the article, so I strongly suspect the brochure is pre-war.

    From what little I have been able to gather about J&P Hill, they were a small non-ferrous metals manufacturer (I can only find vague reference to them as a brass button manufacturer). The translation work in the brochure is rather poor, so they don’t seem to have invested a lot of money into marketing materials.

  3. According to Wikipedia, the weapon was adopted and used, just not on as large a scale as the FIAT Revelli. The main issue preventing the Perino from being more widely adopted was its weight. The Perino Modello 1908 seems to have been used mainly in fortifications where its weight mattered less. The English article has scant information beyond this, but the Italian Wikipedia page has more. Apparently, a lighter Modello 1910 was developed that had some reliability issues in its initial forms. A 1911 commission recommended dropping further development.

    https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perino_Mod._1908

    I noticed the different number of strips as well, and also that the strips are less than 20 rounds in some pictures. It appears that a variety of magazine and strip configurations were tried and simply not mentioned in the manual.

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